BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Nov 21 (Reuters) - The cost of pecan pie, one of the traditional deserts enjoyed by Americans on the Thanksgiving holiday, has been hit by nutty prices for the second consecutive year thanks to a combination of Mother Nature and the Chinese New Year.
Hurricane Isaac, which caused severe damage along the northern Gulf Coast of the United States in August, blew away much of this years’ harvest.
On top of, that the Chinese have lately discovered the tasty nuts and have become the biggest importer of U.S. pecans.
In Alabama, the sixth largest producing U.S. state, Isaac hit the two counties that produce the most pecans, reducing the normal output of 15 million pounds (6.8 million kilograms) to 9 million (4.1 million kgs), according to Bill Goff, a horticulture professor at Auburn University, who is also a pecan farmer.
The impact of Asian demand has jacked up prices almost 60 percent in the last three years. The Chinese market is expected to absorb one third of the U.S. crop by year-end. The Chinese tend to prefer the large, showy nuts called “desirables” grown in the U.S. Southeast.
“Americans will be eating the smaller nuts. But they often taste better and have higher nutritional value,” said Goff.
Prices should stay below last year’s record high, according to Randy Hudson, incoming president for the National Pecan Growers Council and a pecan farmer.
Pecans were virtually unknown in China until as late as 2007, when the price dipped below that of popular walnuts. Demand has risen from two million pounds (907,000 kgs) bought by China in 2007, to 88 million (39.9 million kgs) in 2009, according to Hudson. This season it could hit 100 million pounds, he added. (Editing by David Adams and Christopher Wilson)